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40 Most Defining WWE Images Of 2017

The best from Raw, SmackDown Live and NXT's yearly family album...

I think in the grand scheme of things, 2017 will be remembered as a continuation of 2016 for WWE. The previous year saw AJ Styles' unthinkable debut, and everything seemed to progress rapidly from that moment onwards. We saw indie darlings Finn Balor and Kevin Owens as Universal Champion, the Cruiserweight Classic, and WWE's expansion into the UK independent scene.

However, to simply deem 2017 a sequel to 2016 would be massively unfair. This year has also seen a whole host of compelling, striking, and sometimes questionable moments from the biggest wrestling promotion on the planet.

We've been treated to excellent matches, shocking swerves, and monumental moments. Naturally, however, over the course of a whole year, some of these will fall by the wayside. We all remember Undertaker walking away at WrestleMania, and Sami Zayn's shocking heel turn at Hell in a Cell, but some of the year's most defining moments may be a little harder to recall.

What better way to refresh the memory than with our look back at WWE in 2017, featuring 40 of the year's most important images.

40. Tyler Bate Wins The UK Championship Tournament





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Tyler Bate is soaked in champagne as he wins the United Kingdom Championship Tournament, defeating Pete Dunne in the final.

2017 kicked off with the United Kingdom Championship Tournament, bringing several beloved UK indie names to the fore. It told a simple but effective story, and babyface Bate was able to defeat heel Dunne in the final.


39. The Glorious Era Begins





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Bobby Roode celebrates with the NXT Championship, having surprisingly defeated Shinsuke Nakamura at TakeOver: San Antonio.

Bobby Roode became an NXT phenomenon in 2016, thanks largely to his incredible theme music. Few would have predicted that he'd ascend so quickly beyond this, but the Impact Wrestling veteran showed his experience and ability en route to the title.

38. Cena Overcomes Styles





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John Cena nails AJ Styles with a lariat at the Royal Rumble, en route to winning his 16th world championship

In perhaps WWE's best main roster match of the year, Styles and Cena took one another to the absolute limit. After winning a stellar SummerSlam 2016 battle, it was time for AJ to return the favour - but both men came out of this looking great.

37. Randy Orton Wins The Royal Rumble





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Randy Orton celebrates winning the 2017 Royal Rumble match, outlasting a stacked field including Brock Lesnar, Goldberg, and The Undertaker.

Orton's first Rumble win came in 2009, a result sometimes looked back on as overly-predictable. His 2017 triumph suffered from the opposite problem, as it truly came out of the blue. Many would have preferred a younger, fresher winner - but initial criticism was deflected onto Roman Reigns' no. 30 entrance.


36. Bray Wyatt Becomes WWE Champion





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Bray Wyatt celebrates winning the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber, last eliminating AJ Styles in the eponymous match.

2017's Elimination Chamber match was an excellent one, featuring Styles, Cena, Ambrose, Corbin, Miz, and eventual winner Wyatt. Unfortunately, despite winning his first ever WWE Championship, the rest of the year would be a momentum-sapping one for Bray.

35. The Festival Of Friendship





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Kevin Owens turns on tag partner and "best friend" Chris Jericho, wrecking the Festival of Friendship set in the process.

KO and Y2J provided one of the most heartbreaking moments of the year, as they harked back to Jannetty and Michaels with a brutal mid-segment betrayal. It would lead to a WrestleMania feud and the end of one of the most entertaining heel alliances in recent memory.

34. Orton Burns Down The Wyatt Family Compound





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Randy Orton sets fire to the Wyatt Family's compound, thereby turning his back on Bray Wyatt.

One of the most bizarre moments of the year saw Randy Orton betray the Wyatt Family, burning down their compound in the process. The turn itself was quite predictable, but its nature was very confusing indeed. WWE were expecting us to sympathise with The Viper here, but his actions came across as sadistic and cruel. This also led to a poorly-received WrestleMania clash and the infamous House of Horrors match.


33. Goldberg Destroys Owens





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Goldberg nails Kevin Owens with a Spear during their (rather short) Universal Championship match at Fastlane.

Goldberg's demolition of Brock Lesnar at Survivor Series 2016 was met with near-universal praise. It was a legitimately exciting, shocking moment. However, that support soured when the WCW legend also squashed Kevin Owens at Fastlane. KO was admittedly distracted by the appearance of Chris Jericho, but many fans felt that he deserved better.

32. Three-Way Tag Team Excellence





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The Revival and DIY temporarily put aside their differences, a crucial aspect of the three-team elimination match at NXT TakeOver: Orlando.

NXT usually caters to wrestling purists more than its parent promotion, and one such match was booked for WrestleMania weekend. The Authors of Pain, DIY, and The Revival clashed in a mouthwatering bout, one which Akam and Rezar were eventually able to survive.

31. King Of The Cruiserweights





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Neville celebrates with his Cruiserweight Championship, having defeated Austin Aries in the opening match of the WrestleMania 33 pre-show.

Neville's heel turn was one of the simplest (and most effective) of 2017, as the increasingly bland babyface became a vicious heel overnight. He steamrolled the rest of the cruiserweight division and put on a great opening match with Austin Aries at Mania. It may have been on the pre-show, but Neville's support reached new heights this year.


30. The Hardys Return





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Matt and Jeff Hardy return to WWE to perhaps the loudest reception of WrestleMania weekend.

In a bonafide WrestleMania moment, The Hardys made their long-awaited return, capturing the Raw Tag Team Championship in the process. Amazingly, they'd wrestled The Young Bucks in a terrifying ROH ladder match only the night before.

29. Cena Proposes To Nikki





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John Cena proposes to long-term girlfriend Nikki Bella, moments after defeating The Miz and Maryse at WrestleMania 33.

After seeing off the heel team of Miz and Maryse, Cena and Nikki Bella shared a very personal WrestleMania moment. Of course, this didn't stop the smark-heavy 'Mania crowd from booing the pair - but it must have been nice anyway.

28. Lesnar Finally Defeats Goldberg





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Brock Lesnar leaves WrestleMania with the Universal Championship, having finally avenged his two losses to Goldberg.

Lesnar's losses to Goldberg - at WrestleMania XX and Survivor Series 2016 - were two of the most damaging of his career, for different reasons. He finally got his own back at this year's 'Mania, defeating Goldberg in a short (but very entertaining) demolition derby of a match.


27. This Is His Yard Now





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Roman Reigns celebrates on the ramp, having defeated The Undertaker in the main event of WrestleMania.

Reigns' defeat of The Undertaker was his third consecutive appearance in the main event of WrestleMania. He was undone by Seth Rollins' cash-in at 31, but beat Triple H the following year in Texas. With rumours circulating of a 2018 rematch with Lesnar, would anyone bet against three wins in a row for the Big Dog?

26. The Deadman's Last Ride





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The Undertaker appears to bid farewell at WrestleMania, having symbolically left his hat, coat, and gloves in the ring.

Undertaker looked as though he was set to retire at WrestleMania 32, leaving his gloves in the ring after defeating Shane McMahon. That message was repeated this year, but with far more emphasis. The Deadman left his hat and jacket along with his gloves and slowly walked from the ring as the ending of 'Mania was transformed into a personal send-off.

25. Alexa Bliss Strikes Gold





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Moments after defeating Bayley at Payback, Alexa Bliss celebrates with her newly-won Raw Women's Championship.

Alexa Bliss is one of the biggest success stories of the WWE women's division this year. One of the most charismatic wrestlers on the entire roster, her Raw Women's Championship reigns have featured ups and downs - but have been largely positive thanks to her personality and presence.


24. Bate And Dunne Tear It Down





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Pete Dunne boots Tyler Bate in the midst of their Match of the Year candidate - a brilliant UK Championship bout at NXT TakeOver: Chicago.

Having lost to Bate in the final of the UK Championship Tournament, Dunne avenged his loss with an amazing victory in Chicago. The pair put on a dazzling bout hailed by many as one of the best of 2017.

23. Ciampa Turns On Gargano





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Having failed to win the NXT Tag Team Championship back from the Authors of Pain, Tommaso Ciampa viciously attacks tag partner Johnny Gargano at the end of TakeOver: Chicago.

After sacrificing their bodies in a brutal ladder match, DIY soaked in the sympathy and adulation of the crowd at the top of the ramp. Unthinkably (although we'd all been waiting for it to happen), Ciampa turned on Gargano and slammed him through the announce table.

22. Jinder Mahal Does The Unthinkable





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Jinder Mahal celebrates with the WWE Championship, having shocked the world by defeating Randy Orton at Backlash.

Just months after being embarrassed by NFL star Rob Gronkowski at WrestleMania, Jinder completed his startling ascent to the main event with a WWE Championship victory over Randy Orton. It was not the most well-received title reign.


21. James Ellsworth Wins The First Women's MITB Ladder Match





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With Carmella incapacitated, James Ellsworth prepares to climb the ladder for her at Money in the Bank.

One of WWE's worst booking decisions of the year saw a man physically remove the briefcase in the first-ever Women's MITB Ladder Match. Although Carmella went down as the official victor, it was a very questionable decision indeed.

20. Have We Met Before?





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AJ Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura square off in the midst of the Men's Money in the Bank Ladder Match, teasing a potential future showdown.

In the middle of the men's ladder match, fans were treated to an almighty tease. Styles and Nakamura were each other's final opponent in a New Japan, a wonderful match that helped make Wrestle Kingdom 10 such a wonderful event. Surely a rematch would go down very well.

19. Carmella Rights Some Wrongs





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Carmella wins the women's Money in the Bank briefcase at the second time of asking, this time without the help of James Ellsworth.

In a hasty spot of rebooking, WWE arranged a second women's MITB ladder match on SmackDown. Thankfully, this time, Carmella was able to pull down the briefcase herself.


18. Joe Spooks Heyman





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Samoa Joe calmly explains to Paul Heyman that he is about to choke him out, seconds before doing so.

In one of the most chilling moments of the year, Samoa Joe detailed exactly how he was about to choke Paul Heyman unconscious, seconds before doing so. The fact that it happened off mic, and was instead picked up by a ringside camera, made the whole thing feel more realistic - and therefore more terrifying.

17. The Great Khali Returns





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Jinder Mahal celebrates with The Great Khali, the latter returning to help the WWE Champion retain at Battleground.

Rumours of The Great Khali's return had circulated prior to the Punjabi Prison main event of Battleground - but it was still slightly surreal to see the seven-footer stride out from the back to halt Randy Orton. There was even a moment of unintentional comedy, as Khali himself hoisted the WWE Championship while celebrating alongside Jinder.

16. The Undisputed Era Crash Drew's Party





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Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, and Kyle O'Reilly attack new NXT Champion Drew McIntyre at TakeOver: Brooklyn III.

The increasing 'indiefication' of NXT continued with the debut of three-time ROH World Champion Adam Cole, who jumped Drew McIntyre to a raucous reception in Brooklyn. Flanked by Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly, he immediately solidified himself as one of the top heels in NXT.


15. Strowman Destroys Lesnar





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Braun Strowman slams Brock Lesnar through the announce table during the main event of SummerSlam.

Braun Strowman did a lot of visually impressive stuff during his breakout year - not all of it totally believable, but that's part of the fun. Tipping over large vehicles and surviving garbage compactors is one thing, but there's no denying the raw impressiveness of this spot at SummerSlam.

14. The Horsewomen Square Off





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Mae Young Classic entrant Shayna Baszler stares down Charlotte Flair, Bayley, and Becky Lynch.

Since the involvement of Ronda Rousey in WWE, there's been talk of the similarities between two sets of Horsewomen - the wrestling clan featuring Charlotte Flair, Bayley, Becky Lynch, and Sasha Banks; and Rousey's MMA-based squad. A confrontation was teased during the Mae Young classic, where entrant (and Rousey stablemate) Shayna Baszler stared down several of the WWE Horsewomen at ringside.

13. Kairi Sane Triumphs





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Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane is congratulated by Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and NXT trainer Sara Amato.

Although Baszler steamrolled her way to the final, she was far from the only impressive woman in the tournament. Piper Niven, Toni Storm, and Bianca Belair all stood out - but the ultimate winner was the supremely talented Kairi Sane, who won with the help of her astonishing Elbow Drop.


12. Owens Headbutts Vince





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Kevin Owens headbutts Vince McMahon mid-handshake.

Kevin Owens doesn't look like WWE's traditional idea of a major star, but the company's high opinion of him was confirmed when he was entrusted with an angle involving Vince McMahon. KO brutally headbutted the owner during an episode of SmackDown, drawing blood and reminding us all that he's one of the best heels in the business.

11. Cena Vs. Reigns





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John Cena sportingly raises the arm of Roman Reigns, having just lost to The Big Dog at No Mercy.

Cena vs. Reigns is a match befitting of any big four pay per view, but was strangely booked for No Mercy. The bout itself was also weirdly uneventful, with Reigns simply beating Cena clean and John holding his hand aloft in an attempt at a passing-of-the-torch moment.

10. The Shield Reunite





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Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, and Dean Ambrose celebrate a beatdown of The Miz, confirming the long-awaited reunion of The Shield.

The Shield were one of the most insanely popular groups in WWE history for the duration of their (relatively brief) run, and it seemed as though fans were talking about a reunion from the moment they broke up. That became true towards the end of 2017, as Reigns joined up with the already-reunited Ambrose and Rollins to dominate The Miztourage - and, later, battle the forces of Team SmackDown in the build to Survivor Series.


9. The New Day And Usos Go All Out





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The Usos brutalise The New Day with kendo sticks during their Tag Team Hell in a Cell match.

The Usos and New Day enjoyed one of the best feuds of the year, wowing fans in a series of excellent matches regardless of their place on the card. The most memorable came at Hell in a Cell - a match equal parts brutal and entertaining.

8. Sami Zayn Saves His Nemesis





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Medics tend to Shane McMahon after his terrifying dive at Hell in a Cell, a move he missed due to Sami Zayn dragging Kevin Owens out of the way.

In perhaps the year's most dramatic moment, Sami Zayn dragged Kevin Owens to safety, milliseconds before Shane McMahon crashed through the announce table. It was the SmackDown Commissioner's second terrifying cell dive, this time coupled with WWE's most shocking turn of 2017.

7. A Sweet Showdown





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Finn Balor and AJ Styles share a 'Too Sweet' hand gesture at TLC, a symbolic moment between two former Bullet Club leaders.

Illness caused a few changes to the TLC card, one of which saw AJ Styles step in to replace Bray Wyatt. He faced fellow former Bullet Club leader Finn Balor, and the pair shared this striking gesture at the end of a hard-fought bout.


6. Kurt Angle Fills In




Kurt Angle enters through the crowd alongside Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose at TLC.

Another injury-forced change at TLC saw Kurt Angle replace Roman Reigns as a temporary member of The Shield. To the delight (and good-natured ridicule) of many, the Olympian even donned black attire and entered through the crowd.

5. Styles Wins Big In The UK





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AJ Styles wins the WWE Championship from Jinder Mahal in Manchester, England - the first time the belt has changed hands on British soil.

Jinder Mahal's WWE Championship reign was a controversial and poorly-received one, but paid off in grand fashion when AJ Styles took back control of the title on a UK edition of SmackDown.

4. Black And Dream's Sleeper Hit





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Aleister Black psychs out Velveteen Dream during their stellar contest at NXT TakeOver: WarGames.

Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream was an entertaining NXT feud for much of its build, but many regarded it as merely a sideshow. The pair proved doubters wrong with a shockingly amazing match in Houston, one afforded far more time and nuance than we truthfully expected.


3. Asuka Passes The Torch





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Former champion Asuka hands the NXT Women's Championship to Ember Moon at TakeOver: WarGames.

Asuka's dominance of NXT was such that it's hard to pick a single moment that encapsulates her reign. The most unfortunate aspect was that injury robbed her of the chance to truly pass the torch to Ember Moon. Thankfully, in a nice moment, the Empress of Tomorrow was on hand to literally hand her vacated title to the new champion at TakeOver: WarGames.

2. WarGames Returns





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SAnitY, Authors of Pain, Roderick Strong, and The Undisputed Era do battle in the eponymous main event of TakeOver: WarGames.

The highly-anticipated return of the WarGames stipulation delivered in spades, as nine of NXT's best clashed in an incident-filled battle that managed to be both tactical and destructive.

1. Strowman Terrifies Triple H





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Braun Strowman threatens Raw teammate Triple H at the end of their Survivor Series match.

The main event of this year's Survivor Series was certainly a peculiar one, as the whole thing seemed to devolve into a Triple H trolling exercise. Many fans didn't take too kindly to this, and neither did Braun Strowman, who throttled The Game and slammed him into the canvas. A future WrestleMania showdown?

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]